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Canada Exploring Vancouver Island Family Life during Covid 19 Sophia StarFish Medical Travel Winter Snow

White Christmas on Vancouver Island! Winter Wonderland–Snow to StarFish 2021

I’m dreaming of a White Christmas“…The lyrics incite such a romantic vision of a Winter Wonderland. It truly is magical when snow arrives for Christmas…

Winter Wonderland in our backyard…Merry Christmas 2021 from Vancouver Island, Canada.

After shoveling snow several times a day for over a week straight (Thanks hon!); and being basically snowed in during the entire time my 88 year old mother and son, Alexander, were visiting over Christmas; I must confess visions of sun and warm beaches have been slipping into my thoughts lately!

Shoveling snow every day since snow arrived! Dec 2021

However, it is with gratitude, I embrace the beautiful snowy scenes and Winter Wonderland our family experienced during 2021 Christmas.

In preparation of the Festive Season, we attended a George Canyon Christmas concert, set out the nutcracker collection, decorated the tree, and Sophia our cat set out to explore after the first snowfall.

Getting into the Holiday Mood–George Canyon, Nutcrackers, Tree, Sophia and Snow!

Gifts were created and shared. From Santa on a motorcycle playing “Born to be Wild” to homemade pumpkin pies for each of our neighbors. I even managed to get my hair cut and styled!

Getting ready for Christmas Festivities…

My husband and I headed up for a day of downhill skiing at Mount Washington prior to the influx of participation when school breaks for the Holidays.

Downhill Skiing at Mt Washington, Dec. 2021 (weekday).

By December 22nd my 88 year old mom and son, Alexander, arrived at our home on Vancouver Island. Alexander had spent the previous week in Toronto working at the StarFish Medical office in Toronto. Luckily his Covid test was negative after returning back to our province, so he was able to join us at Christmas. Sadly, his long time girlfriend, Benz, remains in Thailand due to Covid global restrictions. We all really miss her optimistic ways and quick smiles! Sophia, our rescue cat was thrilled to have Alexander home!

Beautiful Benz in Thailand and Sophia loving Alexander’s gentle touch.

When Alexander arrived my modest, reserved son quietly informed us that he had just received an award at his work place. We were all so proud when we learned that Alexander had been selected to receive the StarFish MedicalReach For the Stars” award.

My son, Alexander, was selected to receive the StarFish Medical “Reach for the Stars” 2021 award with Scott Phillips (Founder and C.E.O. of StarFish Medical.)

His grandad (Alex) would have certainly been beaming with pride! Alexander is the 3rd generation of exceptional Engineers. My dad whom Alexander is named after, was a Marine and Machine Engineer. His Uncle Mark was an Electrical Engineer. Alexander is a Design and Manufacturing Engineer. All three generations are incredible divergent thinkers, innovative problem solvers, and hard working leaders in their fields. Alexander is very humble, but he is allowing his proud mom to share this recent recognition. I am so proud of you hon!

So how do you entertain when snow is steadily increasing outside day by day?

Daily measurement of snow on the back deck table….The last photo reached 48 cm or 19 1/2 inches!!!

Well….The 4 of us (mainly Alexander) worked together to complete a 1,000 piece puzzle entitled “Wish you were here” sent by a lovely friend in Burns Lake. Thanks Wendy! Our one outing in the snow was Alexander’s gift to his nana. Mom selected a movie she would like to see and we all attended “West Side Storytogether! It was mom’s first time attending a movie theatre in years and she was thrilled watching from recliner chairs!

Christmas activities–puzzles and movies!

Eating….Meal planning was done ahead of time. Here are a few of the meals we shared together.

Sharing meals together….Enjoying extra treats over the Holidays.

Christmas is not quite the same without small children present and our day was pretty quiet with only 4 family members present together. Covid times have changed our celebrations, but we embraced our time and had fun together!

Highlights from Christmas 2021

The Fifth member of our home is our rescue cat, Sophia. Although she loves to spend time outdoors….We discovered that Sophia is not fond of deep snow and temperatures below 0! She is curious and likes to check in with us (especially me), but during a Winter Wonderland experience she is happy to hang indoors!

Sophia our Turquoise shell cat prefers indoors….but likes to follow me when the snow is under 30 cm.

It is a lot of hard physical work keeping snow under control–including keeping the vehicles accessible and driveways/paths cleared. But sometimes…..you just need to have a bit of fun and make snow angels!

Mark and Alexander demonstrate how to create Snow Angels! Dec 2021

Sophia demonstrated how to create paths in the snow and play with the snow. She was not successful creating snowballs….but she tried hard!

Sophia (rescue cat) tries to make snowballs….

We definitely had a “White Christmas” this year and as we approach the New Year of 2022, I can say honestly that we will have a “White New Year” too!

Yes. We had a “White Christmas” 2021

The snow seems to be very content resting here and weather forecasts do not indicate that it will be disappearing in the near future. So….Here are some highlights showing the beauty of a Winter Wonderland in our city.

Scenes around our cul de sac during our December 2021 Winter Wonderland.

Alexander assists nana through the path in the snow to my husband’s truck. Mark drove her up the cul de sac hill to get into the vehicle which would be taking her back home up island.

Alexander assists his nana through the snow. Mark checks out an icicle!

Christmas is over for 2021….The Winter Wonderland remains in our city on Vancouver Island.

Happy New Year 2022!!!! From our home to yours!

2020 and 2021 have had their challenges with Covid global pandemic lockdowns. A new year is inspiring and offers new opportunities and hope. Happy New Year 2022! From Canada to your home!

Keep Safe and Keep Optimistic. Cheers. S

Categories
Adventure Canada Exploring Outdoors Exploring Vancouver Island Hiking trails Travel

Hike Historic Harewood Colliery Dam Park. Vancouver Island.

Introducing Harewood Colliery Dam Park–officially recognized as one of Canada’s Historic Places. This blog post is dedicated to explaining some of Harewood Colliery Dam’s historical significance while illustrating the beauty and features related to my theme of Hiking trails around Nanaimo, Vancouver Island.

Colliery Dam Park during Autumn (October).

The Colliery Dam Park, at 635 Wakesiah Avenue, is a popular destination in Nanaimo for a multitude of reasons. Parking is available in several locations around the park. There is wheelchair access to the first lake which is a popular picnic spot during summer. Fresh water swimming (no lifeguards) and fishing is permitted in the lakes. Although dogs must be on leash on the majority of the trails, there is an off leash area with lake access on the upper dam. The trails offer a variety of fitness options from easy to fairly steep climbs.

Colliery Park trails—May

In addition, Colliery Dam has historical significance to the Nanaimo area. The Dams were built in 1910-11 by the Western Fuel Company. Originally the water was necessary in coal mining to wash coal, and be utilized by miners, mules and horses. Many of the homes in the historic area of South Harewood eventually gained access to, and benefitted from, this fresh water supply.

Colliery Dam fresh water lakes—May

While researching about Harewood Colliery Dam, one of the most informative websites I discovered was from Vancouver Island View. vancouverislandview.com Colliery Dam Park In Nanaimo

Beautiful foliage and bird songs—May

The photos I am sharing of Colliery Dam Park were taken on several walks and hikes in the park during mid May, September, and October. We avoided the summer months, as this popular park gets too busy for our Covid safety comfort level.

Autumn—some of the wooden bridges and stairs sections along the trails.

The following photos were taken during autumn (September and October) on some more challenging trails around the park and surrounding areas.

Autumn. Colliery Dam Park.

The deciduous trees are dropping their leaves — particularly the giant Maples. It’s a harvest feast of colour and lush undergrowth. Note the cedar stripped off the trunk of the cedar tree. Aboriginal People traditionally used cedar to create art, baskets, regale, and hats. Cedar bark is stripped in a lengthy narrow section, then the chosen tree will be left to heal and continue growing.

Autumn hiking group soaking up the lush rainforest.

Feeling the richness of the woods around us…

Autumn—Colliery Dam

Time for our photo shoot beside Granny Falls (also known as Chase River Falls).

2 photos of Granny Falls —Autumn

Compare Granny Falls a month later…

Granny Falls (Chase River Falls) Colliery Dam

Another interesting site to explore is the tunnel of graffiti! It’s a fun art experience for all.

The tunnel of graffiti!

Since Covid 19 surfaced, a covid face mask mysteriously appeared inside the tunnel protecting Marilyn Monroe’s stunning face.

Bridges and trails around Colliery Dam—October

There are many trails to explore around the Colliery Dam Park. I will return again soon! In the meantime, there are other hiking locations to explore and Sophia’s (our cat) antics to share.

Keep Safe and Keep Optimistic! S

Categories
British Columbia Canada Exploring Outdoors Exploring Vancouver Island Hiking trails Nature Remembrance Day Travel

Autumn Hikes. Exploring the Rainforest around Nanoose Bay, Vancouver Island!

Vancouver Island is a nature lovers’ paradise. If you love to be outdoors and explore nature, there are endless possibilities around our beautiful Canadian island. This blog post discusses day hiking options around Nanoose Bay, British Columbia.

Colorful autumn hikes around Nanoose, BC.

If you commence your hiking trips from Nanaimo, Nanoose Bay is approximately 30 km or about 30 minutes drive northwest via the Island Highway 19 N (North).

Popular hiking trails at Nanoose Bay include: Enos Lake Trail, Notch Hill Park, Notch Hill Loop Trail and Bonnell Creek Falls. It is easy to search for information about hiking trails in this area, but a source recommended by many local hikers is https://www.alltrails.com/canada/british-columbia/nanoose

Due to reaching herd immunity (over 85% of people over 12 are now fully vaccinated against Covid 19 in my Canadian province of British Columbia), hiking groups are now allowed to explore once again! We are all covid careful and everyone has to show their covid vaccine QRCode passport in order to join the group.

Covid style hiking groups

Let’s go hiking!!!!

This is Enos Lake hike in September. The weather was sunny and warm. The deciduous trees were only starting to change colours. This is a gorgeous lake hike with many trails to explore.

Enos Lake, Nanoose Bay

We stopped to have a break and eat a snack on a grassy spot up the hillside above the lake.

Hiking break at Enos Lake Park trail

A week later, our hiking group explored trails closer to the Lantzville side of Nanoose Bay. It was another sunny September day. We did not require jackets or toques yet.

Lantzville area hike in September

The trees along the trails were regal and the rainforest undergrowth was so thick in places that we had to create new paths!

Breaking paths on hike near Lantzville

As the weather started changing into normal Autumn patterns, the winds and rains increased causing more trail obstruction damage from tree windfalls and slippery trails. The water levels in the creeks and rivers also increased.

Bonnell Creek Falls, Nanoose Bay in October

Our hiking rain jackets and pants were getting used more regularly now as were 1 or both hiking poles during our adventures. This next hike occurred at Bonnell Creek Falls in mid October.

Creating new paths through underbrush at Bonnell Creek Falls area

Another great hike in the Nanoose Bay area is “Big Trees” trail. This hike occurred in late October.

Big Trees Trail

We discovered some enormous Arbutus and an enormous Evergreen.

“Big Arbutus Tree”. Our hiking leader posed to illustrate the size of this Arbutus tree.

There truly were “Big Trees” to discover!

Another “Big Coniferous Tree” we discovered.

The rains and winds had assisted in dislodging most of the Maple tree leaves around the trails. Although the deciduous trees looked rather bare, the colorful leaves and variety of fungi were enchanting.

COVID Careful Hiking. Break time at Big Trees trail.

A musical Canadian experience in Autumn, is the sound of leaves rustling around your feet as you walk or hike along through the abundant variety of nature trails.

Fascinating diversity of fungi in late October.

Last year on November 11th, our group explored around Enos lake and upward to the “Notch“.

November 11th 2020 hike around Enos Lake and upward to the Notch

At 11:00 a.m. we stopped in a quiet location in the forest beside a river. We all respected 2 minutes of silence to reflect on our freedom in Canada, our goal for peace, and our gratitude for those soldiers and personnel who fought to ensure our freedom. Following the silence, we had an opportunity to share a personal vignette of how Remembrance Day is significant to our families. It was an extremely powerful and sentimental experience.

Here is a video presentation of our November 11th (Remembrance Day) Hike at Enos Lake and up to the “Notch”.

Remembrance Day Hike in Nanoose Bay

Remembrance Day 2021 will soon be here. I will be wearing my poppy and reflecting with deepest gratitude on the past; embracing the freedom we have living in Canada; and hoping for global compassion and peace.

My next blog posts will be about more amazing hiking experiences on Vancouver Island and possibly an update on our Rescue Cat Sophia and our neighborhood deer families.

Keep safe and Keep optimistic. S

Categories
Adventure Beaches Canada Canadian Animals Exploring Vancouver Island Kayaking Newcastle Island Travel

Kayaking around Newcastle Island (Saysutshun). Marine Provincial Park in Nanaimo.

One of the many joys of living on Vancouver Island, B.C. is that nearly all communities are near, or adjacent to, the beautiful Pacific Ocean.

Living in Nanaimo (population over 100,000), there are so many diverse ways to explore nature and the outdoors. This blog post focuses on one of the favorite kayaking areas to explore in Nanaimo. Newcastle Island, is also known as Saysutshun by the local Snuneymuxw people.

Let’s explore Newcastle Island!

The following excellent website thoroughly explores Newcastle Island (Saysutshun) from Ferry Schedules, to Camping, Moorage, Maps of Trails, and Explanation about the Culture and History of the Marine Provincial Park. http://newcastleisland.ca

Newcastle Island is less than a kilometer’s paddle across the water from several launching locations in Nanaimo. It is about 8.5 km to circumnavigate the island by water. These aerial views of Newcastle and Protection Island were taken from a float plane while flying in/out of the Nanaimo harbour.

Nanaimo harbour and nearby islands. Views from float plane.

Newcastle and Protection Islands are popular locations, so expect to see other kayaks, sailboats, pleasure craft, even B.C. Ferries sharing the water with you!

Sharing the water around Newcastle Island, Nanaimo.

There are several FREE locations available to launch your kayaks. The size of your kayaks and ease of parking influences your selection. Some locations have free parking. Other locations require pay parking. You can launch from the following locations: Nanaimo Harbour Marina (downtown);

Downtown harbour

Maffeo Sutton Park has access for smaller kayaks to launch;

Maffeo Sutton Seawalk

More launching sites include: Brechin boat ramp; Queen Elizabeth Promenade (near the Yacht Club); Departure Bay Beach; and Stephenson Point.

We own touring ocean kayaks which are longer than most day trip recreational kayaks.

Brechin Boat Ramp. Newcastle Island in the Background.

Our boats are very seaworthy, designed for multi day trips with 2 hatches, but are over 16 feet in length! Our usual launching location is Brechin Boat Ramp.

Let’s get kayaking! The following kayak adventure photos were taken during 3 different adventures while kayaking around Newcastle (Saysutshun) Island. One trip occurred during April (Spring), the other 2 trips occurred during August (summer).

April: Needing to take a break from Covid masks and restrictions? Kayaking on a sunny day in Spring is such a pleasant remedy to any feelings of confinement. We departed from Brechin boat ramp and headed along Newcastle, toward downtown Nanaimo, then continued across the water to Protection Island.

My husband and I paddled past a log sort boom and continued towards a beacon. From this location, there is a fabulous view of the cliffs on Gabriola Island.

Beacon. The cliffs of Gabriola Island in the background.

Dingy Dock floating pub was open with limited capacity due to Covid. A pleasure craft arrived before we could maneuver our kayaks to the back dock, so there was no space in the floating pub for us today!

Dingy Dock Pub on Protection Island.

Returning to Newcastle Island, we explored the spit area adjacent to the park picnic area.

Newcastle Island

As we continued to explore the craggy notches between the island and the water, we observed a few raccoons feasting on low tidal delicacies.

Can you locate the albino raccoon in each photo?

It is common to observe raccoons on Newcastle Island, but today we glimpsed a couple of the more rare, albino raccoons.

Albino raccoon scavenging along the tidal rocks at Newcastle.

Time to head back…

It was a beautiful day to explore!

Summer (August) kayak highlights from our paddle circumnavigating Newcastle Island.

Circumnavigating Newcastle.

The 8.5 km trip around Saysutshun is lovely and there are many gorgeous hidden gems to discover. Expect a few larger waves when you round the corner and head towards the more open strait on the outside of the island.

Here is a video highlighting our kayak adventure around Newcastle island in mid August.

Our wonderful day kayaking around Newcastle

The sunny weather and beauty of this location drew us back for an additional kayak the very next day! This time we went out for an evening kayak and swim in the ocean at Newcastle.

Mark waves hi as he swims. Cozy spot to rest the kayaks.

August Kayak adventures and swimming at Newcastle…Part 2. The evening sunset glows were magical.

Evening kayak and relaxation around Newcastle. Such a gem!

No wonder Newcastle Island is such a popular kayaking destination in Nanaimo. Meanwhile…Switching sports, I have hiking adventures around Nanaimo to blog about next. Keep Safe and Keep Smiling! S

Categories
Adventure British Columbia Canada Summer wildfires Travel

Wildfires, Mudslides, Road Blocks! Oh Boy! Our trip from Prince George to Vancouver

During the summer of 2021, British Columbia set temperature records in various geographical areas of our Canadian province. Heat waves caused drought conditions in some locations; melting mountain snowfall created flood conditions in other areas; and drought combined with lightning ignited raging wildfires.

Safety protocols and lock downs due to Covid, made this an especially challenging time to travel around our vast and majestic province. Due to a combination of these factors, we decided to make our trip back to Vancouver Island from Prince George as direct as possible!

Departing from Prince George, all highway routes southbound journeyed adjacent to one or several wildfire zones. Mom did not want to fly without our support, so “Goodbye Mr. P.G.” we commenced the southbound trip together.

South of Prince George. Nechako River. Lots of highway improvement stops.

The first stage of our trip was 335 km (about 4 hours) from Prince George to 94 Mile Motel south along Highway 97. We drove south past Quesnel, Australian, and McLeese Lake to Williams Lake. This route looks so totally different in summer than when it’s covered in snowmobile paths crisscrossing the deep snow banks during winter months. One summer we plan to stop, camp, and explore lovely McLeese lake.

As you approach Williams Lake, be prepared to observe an increase in loaded logging trucks on the surrounding highways. Representations of the importance of the Logging/Forestry resource industry is very evident here.

Williams Lake. Summer 2021

The lake area looked enticing, so we took a quick detour through this hub center of the Cariboo District. Williams Lake’s population is about 11,000 and it is the service center for surrounding communities.

Driving around Williams Lake

Continuing 15 km southeast along highway 97 we approached historic 150 Mile House. This tiny community was an important stop on the Cariboo Wagon Road during the Gold Rush. The name marks the distance from Lillooet via the Old Cariboo Road. There are lots of fascinating historical antiques and structural remnants to explore in this area. The rural landscape is pretty; displaying a diversity of small lakes, marshes, farms, ranches and tiny communities.

100 Mile House Area

Six miles south of 100 Mile House off highway 97, you will locate Mile 94 Motel.

Why would we stop overnight at tiny 94 Mile House you may wonder?

On previous trips to northern B.C. we discovered this delightful motel…updated modern rooms, meticulously clean, family run and very reasonably priced. There are kitchenettes in the rooms, but no food/pubs within walking distance. It is a lovely location to stop, sleep, then continue travelling the next day.

94 Mile Motel
The only route open was highway 99

The proposed time to cover the 460ish km distance from 94 Mile to Horseshoe Bay Ferry Terminal in Vancouver was estimated at approximately 5 hours and 20 minutes (of uninterrupted driving)! Our trip was going to prove that time allotment was impossible today!

After a hearty breakfast in Clinton (while waiting for updates about highway closures), we headed south on Highway 97 to the Cache Creek junction exit.

Clinton and Cache Creek areas

Highway 99 was the only highway open to southbound travel on August 17th, 2021 due to wildfires and mud slides. We started the trip early in the morning hoping to avoid the anticipated bottleneck in traffic heading towards the only available route. It did not take long before traffic usage increased as people channeled onto this route.

We headed west driving past the evidence of mining rock erosion around Pavilion. My best educated guess after researching, is this was a limestone quarry mine. Pavilion, B.C. is a fascinating area to research. Sadly, there are few structural artifacts left around Pavilion establishing its previous historical settlement as a Cariboo Gold Rush boom town.

Currently ranches are the major focus of this area which is mostly the land of the Ts’kw’aylaxw First Nations reserve. Colorful, clear Pavilion Lake is a popular recreation site too with a fascinating secret to discover beneath its waters.

Pavilion… I had to include at least one photo illustrating a photo bomb road sign!

As we approached Lillooet the vegetation changed reflective of a hotter climate, rugged Coastal mountains, and proximity to the powerful Fraser river.

Approaching Lillooet. Mighty Fraser River!

These majestic geographical features became dominant travel companions throughout the next stage of our journey. The mighty Fraser River is the longest river in B.C. stretching 1,375 km.

Challenging Highway Improvements cutting through mountains adjacent to steep cliffs dropping to the Fraser River Valley.

The population of Lillooet is approximately 2,300 people. The major industries in Lillooet are: hydroelectricity, the railway, forestry, agriculture and tourism. The summer sun, irrigation from the nearby rivers, and fertile soil produce lush fruits, vegetables, and vineyards.

Views around Lillooet , B.C.

After a quick morning coffee break in Lillooet we continued southwest on highway 99 fully embracing the stunning scenery along this route.

Lillooet, B.C. August 2021

The Duffey Lake Road heading toward popular Duffey Lake Provincial Park truly is gorgeous.

Stunning Duffey Lake Area

It is no wonder lower mainland citizens escape to Duffey Lake in flocks! The parking lots were filled and people clad in various levels of hiking attire maneuvered around trailheads. Mom was very excited, and appreciative, by the beauty along the highway 99 route.

This short video shares some of the beautiful scenery we witnessed along Duffey Lake Road (Highway 99).

Views of Duffey Lake Area

The morning was beautiful and we were so thankful we had selected to travel this route on Highway 99 away from the delays due to forest fires, and mud slides… when suddenly we encountered traffic stoppage along the highway at D’Arcy.

What had happened? Luckily our wait time was only 30 minutes. We had allowed extra time for travel when making our B.C. Ferry Reservation to Vancouver Island. You never know what lies ahead when you are travelling–especially during the busy summer months. As we slowly and carefully crept along, we discovered the cause of this highway closure.

Near D’Arcy. A truck with trailer in the ditch!

Our travel continued along Duffey Lake Road (Highway 99) through the Garibaldi Range. Mount Currie, known as Ts’zil in the St’at’imcets (Lillooet) language has an elevation of 2,591 m (8,501 feet).

Mount Currie near Pemberton

This enormous mountain soars above the village of Pemberton, B.C.

Rural beauty at Pemberton

Famous Whistler, B.C is only 33 km (about 30 minutes) drive from Pemberton along Highway 99S. This tourist destination is extremely popular year round for wilderness adventure sports.

During the summer you can participate in sports, such as: mountain biking, rock climbing, hiking, and league sports. During the winter reserve early to participate in sports, such as: skiing, snowboarding, backcountry splitboarding, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, bobsleigh, skeleton, ice-climbing, ice-fishing, and even dog sledding!

Driving past Whistler in summer

Whistler is a tourist haven and an extremely busy location to drive through when you are travelling. Today, was not a day to stop and explore.

Onward southward we drove along the busy Sea-to-Sky Highway B.C. 99S. The distance between Whistler and Squamish is 60 km and the travel time varies dependent on the speed of the traffic. Estimate about 50 minutes.

This is another hub for wilderness adventures and extreme sports. Watch for kitesurfing or windsurfing in Squamish Harbour and rock climbers ascending/descending the Chief Rock face.

Rock Climbing at Squamish

Just 12 km (about 15 minutes) southwest of Squamish along the Sea-to Sky highway 99S you will discover the aqua ocean at Darrell Bay and historical Britannia Beach, B.C. Mom was animated with excitement as she recalled the multiple times our family drove here from Vancouver in the early 1960‘s to picnic on the beach and tour the Britannia Mine. I was under 6 years old during this period and honestly can not remember the experiences; but it was heart warming to hear my 88 year old mom’s memories of these special family adventures.

Britannia Beach and Mine museum. Favorite family location in early 1960’s

We could smell the salty, clear Pacific Ocean air and the familiar scent of cedar and various other coastal evergreen trees. The final 33 km from Britannia Beach to Horseshoe Bay (B.C. Ferry Terminal) was home stretch for us!

The sun ricocheted off the water as we passed Lions Bay. We arrived at the B.C. Ferry terminal in West Vancouver several hours ahead of our reserved ferry.

Lions Bay & Line Ups at B.C. Ferries Horseshoe Bay Terminal

During the busy summer months lengthy ferry waits are common between Vancouver and Vancouver Island, so reservations for particular ferry sailings are recommended. However, we had selected to travel on a Tuesday (mid week) and due to the wildfire and mudslide closures on B.C. highways many people were missing their reserved sailings. As a result, luck was with us today and we managed to get aboard with only 1 sailing wait! Our reserved sailing was actually for much later in the evening!

Heading back home to Vancouver Island!

The 3 of us had journeyed around British Columbia for nearly 2 weeks and certainly appreciated the opening for travel after the lengthy Covid 19 lockdown. We utilized our time to visit family and see fascinating new sites. But as Dorothy quoted in the Wizard of Oz, “There’s no place like home!

Future blog posts will be exploring hiking trails and having adventures around our beautiful Vancouver Island. Keep Safe and Keep Smiling. S

Categories
British Columbia Burns Lake Canadian Animals Exploring Canada Skiing Smithers Travel Wheelchair Accessible

Scenic Smithers and Nechako Lakes District! Travel Northern B.C.

Northern British Columbia is larger than California and extends from Haida Gwaii and Prince Rupert on the west coast east along highway16 through Stunning Smithers and Nechako Lakes District to Prince George. Northern B.C. area continues north defined by the B.C./Alberta provincial border extending up to the Yukon/Alaska border!

The dark green is massive Northern British Columbia, Canada

It truly is a massive area to explore. This blog post will focus on the towns of Smithers, east along highway 16 to Burns Lake in Nechako Lakes District, and ending in the city of Prince George.

This blog post will start at Smithers and end at Prince George, B.C.

Smithers is a cozy community which has maintained a steady population of around 5,500 people over the past decade. The town is located about one-half way between Prince Rupert and Prince George on Highway 16. The total estimated distance driving from Prince Rupert straight through to Prince George is about 8 hours (719 km) providing there are no stops for road work, moose, snow plow clearing, etc.

Smithers embraces parallels to the Swiss Alps from its much photographed Alphorn (also known as alpenhorn or alpine horn) to its Hudson Bay Mountain peak.

Smithers Alphorn in August and in March

The community prides itself on its “world class skiing and fishing” (particularly steelhead). We stayed at Smithers twice during the past few years. Once during March (before covid) and again in August 2021.

This video depicts our March 2019 (Spring skiing and Moose encountering) experience in Little Switzerland Smithers before Covid.

Stunning Smithers, skiing Hudson Bay Mountain, and “Oh! Hello?”

Despite its tiny population, Smithers has produced multiple NHL (National Hockey League) ice hockey players including: Joe and Jimmy Watson, Ron and Rob Flockhart, Alan Kerr, Dan Hamhuis and Michael Wall. Famous poets, musicians, authors, rowers, chefs, etc. also abound from this talented little town. For further information about Smithers, here is the local tourism link. http://tourismsmithers.com

Meanwhile…. Let’s check out some more Moose!!!!

Moose are generally pretty shy and not easy to locate… so we were incredibly grateful to experience these from a safe distance! The Moose mural was actually located at Prince Rupert.

This collage illustrates some of the beautiful wintery conditions around Smithers during our March visit. The center photo is the marsh area where my husband encountered a moose while out on an evening stroll.

Winter conditions around Smithers in early March.

There are many natural attractions to explore around Smithers; such as, Hudson Bay Mountain, Moricetown Canyon, or Twin Falls. In addition, you can view the museum, art gallery, or brewery; or participate in a multitude of extreme sports.

When a member of your travel group has mobility issues, sometimes a driving tour is the most effective option. We tried to explore the main street of Smithers using a wheelchair, but many stores had raised doorways which were very hard to maneuver using a wheelchair. Hopefully, the town will improve access for wheelchairs in the near future. There were several funky boutique shops that looked really interesting, but sadly they were non accessible to those individuals using a wheelchair.

The Stork Inn has a wheel chair room! Finally!!!

However, there was 1 motel in the town which had a limited mobility room with a walk in/wheelchair shower! The family run Stork Nest Inn offers a quiet location with full breakfast, wifi, and 1 room that is suitable for physical mobility. Warning: it is located at the end of a lengthy hallway!

There are many choices of eateries in Smithers. Several locals all recommended Telly’s Grill on 4th Ave. We were so glad we heeded their advice because the Greek/Mediterranean cuisine was superb! We enjoyed the menu so much we returned 2 nights in a row!

Delicious meals at Telly’s Grill. Make a reservation! This eatery is popular!

The Alpenhorn Bistro & Bar on Main St. has unique décor especially the antler chandelier and the snow shoes/archives on the walls. If you feel like a lighter, healthy lunch or smoothie Two Sisters Cafe on 4th Ave. is well worth investigating!

Two sisters Cafe

The one store that enticed mom to brave her cane and explore was Heartstrings Home Decor & Gifts! It truly is a diversified gem of amazing quality merchandise! No wonder nearly everyone we observed departed with teeming bags! It is easy to locate Heartstrings in Smithers. Just look for the Moose statue!

Heartstrings and the Smithers Moose statue!

Driving around Smithers on a beautiful sunny day in August was peaceful and tranquil. There are so many pastoral fields and beautiful river spots to explore and appreciate.

Scenic Smithers!

Prior to departing eastbound on Highway 16 here is a short video highlighting some of our August 2021 experience in Smithers, B.C.

Touring Around Smithers

64 km southeast from Smithers is Houston, B.C. (Not Texas!). No visit to Houston is complete without checking the incredible stylish, affordable inventory at Chia’s Dream Closet.

Chia’s Dream Closet in Houston, B.C.

As expected, both mom and I departed with lovely new additions to our wardrobes. Ironically while researching about Chia’s Dream Closet, (for this blog post), I discovered a google reference to a previous post I had written about a trip to Houston in 2019. If you would like more information about this area, you can check this previous blog post too.

Beautiful friends shopping at Chias in 2019 (prior to Covid).

Returning to highway 16, we drove another 71 km past quiet Topley to Decker Lake area where we stopped in to say hello to a dear friend. Thanks for the lovely lunch Wendy.

Lunch break … Beautiful friends

This is one of the two schools I taught at as Teacher-Librarian during the 2018-2019 school year. Ahhh memories at Decker Elementary School! I’m so, so grateful I retired before Covid 19 changed our world.

The students made the most incredible natural structures in the surrounding woods.

Ten minutes along hectic highway 16 and we entered the town of Burns Lake. When it’s -30 or colder in the winters and the snow and ice are piled over a metre high everywhere, this highway is brutal to drive!

The second school I taught at in Burns Lake was William Konkin Elementary. I lived in this home during the school year. (Photos taken in August!).

Beware of loaded logging trucks, huge semi trailers, massive oversized road and mine equipment, trucks, and a few cars on the road. Highway 16 is the major transportation link connecting the port of Prince Rupert (on the coast) to Prince George and Alberta. Did I mention the highway runs right through the downtown area?

Or… that the CN (Canadian National Railway) and VIA Rail train line also run parallel to the highway with phenomenally lengthy trailers multiple times a day? Train safety is taught at schools in this area as trains sometimes pass every hour! I contemplated taking a train trip from Burns Lake to Prince George during my year up north, but never was able to discover a depot location? Burns Lake is one hectic and very busy transportation junction!

Burns Lake. Pick up wonderful coffee and incredible European baking at the Old and Bold Espresso Bar.

As we were passing through Burns Lake en route to Prince George, we only had time for a quick tour of some of my favorite locations around this hub village of about 2,000 people. I have written multiple posts about this area during my year teaching up north. Please use the search feature in my blog to obtain extensive additional information and photos of the beautiful Burns Lake area.

One of my favorite locations directly off highway 16 in downtown Burns Lake is the Old and Bold Espresso Bar. Say hello to Mattias for me! He’s such a delightful man whose jubilance fills his Backerei with warmth and curiosity. Plus he bakes amazing European breads and desserts!

Mattias serving in his Old and Bold Espresso Bar (prior time covid)

The inside of Old and Bold Espresso Bar has been adjusted according to covid restrictions, but the lattes and baking remain incredible!

We drove down to the Lakeside Multiplex area and had a quick view of Burns Lake, the camping area, Spirit Park, skateboard park, tennis courts, and new water park.

Burns Lake from Spirit Park August 2021

Continuing along Highway 16E meandering around Nechako Lakes we drove the final 227 km to our destination of Prince George, British Columbia. This section took about 2 1/2 hours to drive passing by the communities of Fraser Lake and Fort Fraser.

Mouse mountain at Fraser Lake. The CN train park at Fort Fraser.

I always planned to hike tiny Mouse Mountain! Oh well… I guess I’ll need to add that to my list for our next trip up north!

Continuing east on highway 16, as we neared Vanderhoof evidence of wildfire smoke started to stain the skies.

Highway 16 from Vanderhoof to Prince George! Wildfire smoke!

We were all grateful to spot the Prince George iconic statue of Mr PG. Time to relax. It was a lengthy day of travel for mom!

Returning home would be an adventure due to highway closures (wildfires, mudslides). The next blog posts will highlight our return adventure through British Columbia from Prince George back to Vancouver Island.

Keep safe and Optimistic. Cheers

Categories
Adventure Canada Introduction Travel

Adventures and Contemplations from Sandy’s Perspective

Welcome 2022! The years 2020 and 2021 have been challenging and the covid-19 pandemic has brought unprecedented global change. However, 2022 has arrived and according to the Chinese calendar this is the year of the Water Tiger! From my research I have discovered that the Tiger sign is a symbol of Strength, Exorcising Evils, and Braveness.

Interesting? I continue to approach each new year as a commencement for renewed optimism and fresh starts. International borders are carefully beginning to re-open in some countries. I can officially state I’ve had my 2 doses of Moderna and 3rd booster. My provincial Covid Vaccine Passport is ready for scanning! Thank you Canada!

Regardless of covid lockdowns, we must strive to be creative–finding new ways to explore, have adventures and develop new insights. My blog is my chosen venue to share my story.

Background information is provided by clicking on the Menu (upper right). The Search feature assists quick location of previous blog posts including: Prior to Covid travel to Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Mexico. Since Covid lockdowns, exploration has focused around beautiful Western Canada–particularly Vancouver Island. You are welcome to join my journey.

Virtual Hugs Sandy.

Categories
British Columbia Exploring Canada Life during Covid 19 Prince Rupert Smithers Travel

Prince Rupert to Smithers, B.C. Heading East along Highway 16.

The previous blog post reflected our journey on the B.C. Ferry, Northern Expedition, from Port Hardy to Prince Rupert during August 2021. My husband, my mother, and I were taking advantage of an opening of travel restrictions within our own province of British Columbia, Canada thanks to over 80% of our citizens (including us) being fully vaccinated against Covid 19.

Prince Rupert (near #11) is the hub for travel to Haida Gwaii, Alaska, Port Hardy, or northeast B.C.

As darkness engulfed our 10:30 p.m. August 2021 ferry arrival in Prince Rupert, I have included some photos of the ferry terminal and surrounding harbour taken during the daylight on our 2019 trip.

The Prince Rupert terminal is the hub for travel to Haida Gwaii, Port Hardy, and Alaska!

These photos were taken during a previous trip on March 31st 2019 when we reversed route directions and departed from Prince Rupert heading south to Port Hardy.

Prince Rupert harbour is a busy working harbour!

The Prince Rupert harbour is a hectic location. As we departed from the Ferry Terminal we could observe the active CN freight train line, Coast Guard vessels, Commercial Fish Packing plants, Float planes, and stacks of containers being loaded and unloaded onto International freighters that were waiting their turn in the bay.

There are totem poles in several locations near the terminal. The dock connecting the B.C. Ferry is fairly lengthy and the way the ferry connects and departs from this dock is worth watching! (From our 2019 trip).

Totem poles and “We’re off!”

Time to explore Prince Rupert… This coastal community is a hub on the northwest coast of British Columbia. At present it boasts a population of 12,220 people. Wikipedia calls Prince RupertThe City of Rainbows” and claims it is Canada’s wettest city with 2,620 mm (103 inches) of average annual precipitation.

The following photos were taken while exploring Prince Rupert in late March 2019. Note the snow on the surrounding mountains and frozen icicles hanging off the rocks beside the walking trails.

March 31st 2019 exploring Prince Rupert.

Cow Bay is a really colorful and historically interesting area to explore. You will have located Cow Bay when you discover the “Pride”rainbow sidewalk.

I must confess that as we explored Prince Rupert in mid August 2021 we were stunned by the green, lush plants and grass compared to the dry heat wave yard conditions on Vancouver Island and around much of the province this summer.

Around Prince Rupert August 2021. No evidence of a heat wave here!

https://www.travel-british-columbia.com/northern-british-columbia/yellowhead-highway-16/prince-rupert/ For additional information about Prince Rupert this is a practical website to view.

Another fascinating aspect of Prince Rupert is that it’s actually located on Kaien Island in the territory of the Tsimshan First Nations.

Prince Rupert — Kaien Island. August 2021

Prince Rupert is only 48 km (30 miles) south of Alaska, USA! It’s closest main Canadian City is Terrace, B.C. located 145 km (90 miles) west along Yellowhead highway 16.

Leaving Kaien Island Yellowhead highway along the Skeena River

The majestic Skeena River, in its full glory, is a regal companion as you travel from Prince Rupert to Terrace. The highway runs adjacent to the river for most of the trip and its beauty is stunning!

Skeena River Yellowhead highway 16

Periodically you may lose sight of the Skeena as incredibly lengthy CN (Canadian National) freight trains pull cargo multiple times each day. Bill Gates owns over 10% shares of this Canadian company!

Sharing the view with trains!

VIA rail also runs passenger trains which travel between Jasper and Prince Rupert, B.C. A good percentage of the train transportation route tends to run between the highway and the river.

Just prior to Terrace we encountered several interesting bridges. People were swimming and fishing in the rivers or enjoying sunbathing on the smoother banks.

Kitsumkalum Near Terrace. Note the Spirit bear statue.

Onward to Terrace which is a city of similar size to Prince Rupert—just over 12,000 population. It is located on unceded Tsimshian First Nations territory. Terrace is the largest city in the Kitimat-Stikine district. For more information about Terrace check out this website. https://www.terrace.ca/discover-terrace/about

More fascinating highway and railroad bridges near Terrace

While exploring Terrace keep a look out for Kermode or Spirit bears! They have many Spirit bear statues scattered around the city. Each one is unique and beautiful. Here is a sample of 2 Spirit bears we discovered.

Kermode or Spirit bears at Terrace, BC.

Continuing on the highway, we headed northeast towards Hazelton area on highway 16.

This truck from Alberta had an interesting metal attachment on the back. Hmmmm…. We rarely see these on Vancouver Island. But as my brother lives in Prince George and has one for his truck…. I am familiar with its purpose. Snowmobiles or ATV’s! During much of the year there is deep snow up here!

Ready to haul heavy snowmobiles or ATV’s.

The landscape started to change as we continued travelling away from the coast towards the confluence of the Bulkley and Skeena rivers at Hazelton.

Nearing the 2 Hazeltons

There are several communities that make up the “Hazeltons” area. There is much rich history here in the historical heartland of northwest B.C. European Pioneer settlement started in the 1860’s. But the Gitzsan and Wet’suwet’en First Nations settled here over 8,000 years ago.

Mom was not keen to stop and explore during this trip. So I’ve included some photos from our March 2019 visit. The first collage depicts the Old Town Hazelton pioneer community 1880’s.

March 2019. Pioneer Hazelton area. Lots of interesting artifacts and little shops.

If you are fascinated by First Nations culture and history I highly recommend visiting the ‘Ksan Historical Village and Museum. Learn about Gitxsan history and if you are lucky, you may be invited to assist with carving a majestic totem pole.

‘Ksan Historical Village March 2019

We were invited to learn to carve at ‘Ksan! What an honour!

‘Ksan Historical Village. Carving lesson.

For more information about the diverse history and experiences available at the Hazeltons, check out their local website. http://www.hazeltonstourism.ca/ksan-historical-village-and-museum.html

Our final destination during this journey was Smithers, British Columbia. Smithers is located about one-half way between Prince Rupert and Prince George along Highway 16. It is 74 km (46 miles) by car from Hazelton to Smithers.

Welcome to Smithers, B.C.

Smithers is a stunning alpine type town in northwestern B.C. famous for its world class skiing and fishing. Its population of about 5,400 people has remained remarkably consistent for the last decade. If you love outdoor recreation, this community has much to offer.

The next blog post will explore Smithers and the Nechako Lakes District area of north central B.C. Keep smiling and stay safe. Cheers.

Categories
Adventure Canada Exploring Canada Life during Covid 19 Pacific Ocean Travel

Cruising the Inside Passage on B.C. Ferries Northern Expedition. Canada

Ever contemplated taking a cruise up through the Inside Passage from Vancouver Island north along the British Columbia pristine coastline to Haida Gwaii or even Alaska?

B.C. Ferries Northern Expedition docked at Port Hardy, B.C.

Well, did you know that B.C. Ferries Northern Coast route from Port Hardy to Prince Rupert covers a similar geographical route?

BC Ferries Routes off western Canada

This blog post explores our experience on the Northern Expedition B.C. Ferry in mid August, 2021.

My husband and I were travelling with my mom, who requires mobility support, so our experience will also be beneficial if a member of your group requires wheelchair accessibility.

Driving aboard the Northern Expedition at Port Hardy, B.C.

This ferry trip is lengthy (about 15-16 hours) but the pristine coastline offers a scenic mode of transportation up the British Columbia coast from Port Hardy to Prince Rupert. The majority of the trip occurs during daylight during the summer and during the night during the winter months.

7:00 a.m. Early Departure… outside in the wind near God’s Pocket.

The cost for this experience depends on the ‘extras’ you add, and the season you select to travel in. Check the B.C. Ferries website for more thorough information. https://www.bcferries.com/ We travelled one way during the summer (peak season).

Our reservation included: 2 adults and 1 senior over 65, plus 1 vehicle. We added 1 inside cabin as mom requires lying down periodically (only cabin choice available when we reserved) $100.

Inside cabin… There was a small TV and a complete bathroom with shower and towels.

Plus we purchased 2 reserved seating spots in the Aurora Lounge for $40 each. Our total cost was over $1,000 CA for the 1 way trip.

Aurora Lounge Reserved Seats (Recliners)

The Northern Expedition Ferry has a maximum capacity of just over 600 passengers and crew and 115 vehicles. Our experience in August was a partially full ferry with plentiful physical spacing. Perhaps this was due to Covid lockdowns severely limiting international visitors permitted in Canada?

After making our way from the car deck to the wheelchair accessible elevator, we headed up to the passenger decks. First stop was the Purser’s Office to pick up a route map, and receive the pass key for our assigned cabin and reserved recliner seats in the Aurora lounge.

Points of interest along the route.

The walkway areas were wide, modern and attractive. It was easy to maneuver mom’s wheelchair in most areas.

The hall in one of the staterooms/cabins sections.

However, we quickly discovered that some of the Northern Expedition areas were now closed to passenger use.

The lovely Vista Restaurant was closed. We wondered if it was related to Covid safety restrictions? The Gift Shop was closed too. It only opened once, for about an hour, during the entire trip. This is a shame because B.C. Ferry Gift Shops usually have a varied and quality selection of clothing, books, souvenirs, First Nation’s art and designs, and miscellaneous items.

Food was only available from the Canoe Cafe. This cafe was open 3 times during the trip during breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The Lunch and Dinner menus were nearly identical–with very limited choices.

Canoe Cafe

This was a surprise to us and quite different than our previous experience on the B.C. Ferry Northern Expedition prior to Covid lockdowns in March of 2019. If we travelled on this ferry again in the near future, we would definitely bring food items with us for the journey.

During the trip there were 2 different movie/documentaries shown in the Raven Lounge. The movies portrayed characters unfolding stories about the local history and culture of the small isolated communities along the coastline of B.C. It was really powerful that the settings in the movies were reflective of the coastline just outside the ferry windows! We found the stories entertaining and educational.

Inside Passage

In addition to walking around on the decks, we spent the majority of time during this trip through the Inside Passage relaxing in the Aurora Lounge. It is a comfortable location, with ceiling to floor windows, which encourage full advantage of the pristine beauty seen along the British Columbia coastline, coastal mountains, and surrounding islands.

Lovely Aurora Lounge on Northern Expedition

The high point of the trip up the Inside Passage for us was the beauty of the coastal scenery and the whales! Yes. We saw whales at #4 Boat Bluff on the Points of Interest Map shown above.

After leaving Port Hardy on northeast Vancouver Island we journeyed north through Fitz Hugh Sound passing Egg Island, Calvert Island, and Namu. Namu is a tiny community about 3 1/2 hours from Port Hardy.

The name Namu is a Heiltsuk First Nation’s word meaning ‘place of high winds“. It is claimed to be the oldest settlement on the coast. (More information is found on #8 of the Points of Interest map). The population statistics there vary, but there seems to be 50-100 people living in the area at present.

Namu … old cannery and fishing base

I have read 2 books including: Namu Quest for the Killer Whale by Ted Griffin, that recount Orcas being captured at this location and sold to aquariums for exhibition and performances in the mid 1960’s and 1970’s. Gratefully, this is no longer permitted or practiced in Canada.

Fitz Hugh Sound… near Namu

Continuing north maneuvering through channels and sounds we passed King Island, and Fishing Resort areas, such as, Shearwater prior to stopping briefly at Bella Bella, on Campbell Island. (5 hours from Port Hardy).

Bella Bella area. Salmon were jumping like crazy in the bay!

Bella Bella, also known as Waglisla, is the home of the Heiltsuk First Nations people. The population of this remote community is approximately 1,600 people.

Shearwater Dryad Point area

As we wove around beautiful islands in channels off the Great Bear Rainforest of B.C. we observed a few tiny logging/fishing camps and 2 regent historical lighthouses. The water was very interesting in this area creating color changes and unique rippling effects.

Fascinating ocean effects

Just over 8 hours from our departure at Port Hardy we were informed to glance outside the windows and observe picturesque Boat Bluff. This famous and scenic lighthouse complex, established in 1907, is about one-half way between Port Hardy and Prince Rupert. The light is visible for approximately 32 km and marks the entry into Tolmie Channel when heading northward.

Scenic Boat Bluff

My husband and I raced outdoors to take photos of scenic Boat Bluff lighthouse and were further blessed with the sound of expiration and sight of ‘seasmoke‘. Whales!!! There were 2–3 whales near us.

Whales passing at Boat Bluff

The low curved dorsal fins indicated they were not Orcas, but probably a baleen whale species. They did not breech or spy hop as they passed by so the type of whale was difficult to determine. My best educated guess from living in northern Vancouver Island for 50 + years, combined with their approximate size, was Humpback, (maybe too small?), Grey, or Minke whales.

Hmmmm… what type of whale am I?

Whichever species we had the good luck to share the channel with, whales always bring excitement and awe as they journey near by.

This video depicts the beauty and fog we experienced during the second half of the journey from Boat Bluff to Prince Rupert.

Video of highlights from Boat Bluff to south of Prince Rupert.

Passing through narrow Grenville Channel during thick fog with fog horns blaring is quite an adventure!

Foggy Grenville Channel

One final collage illustrates highlights as the fog thickened, before night darkness blocked our views.

The Northern Expedition arrived in Prince Rupert after 10:30 pm. It was dark as we all disembarked and headed to our respective accommodations.

The next blog post will illustrate our exploration from Prince Rupert heading northeast to Smithers, British Columbia.

Keep safe and optimistic my friends.

Categories
Adventure Beaches Canada Exploring Vancouver Island Nature Pacific Ocean Seaside trails Stormy Surfing Travel

Tumultuous Tofino! Check Drive B.C. First!

Summer 2021

After the second heat wave hit Nanaimo, we craved much lower temperatures and a cool, windy location…Even for a day!

Our choices were to drive 4 + hours (350 + km) northwest up Vancouver Island to seek temperature refuge in much cooler Port McNeill, Port Hardy, Port Alice or other tiny northern communities. Or, we could head due west 201 km to Tofino. The estimated time for this trip, according to several online sources, was about 3 hours. Today, Tofino won out as the destination of choice!

Tofino, B.C.

Temperatures in Nanaimo had been hitting 32-38 degrees C most days for a second stretch this summer. In some areas of the globe, this is normal or possibly mild, but for us in Canada, this is quite extreme and people were getting hospitalized with heat stroke and trying to cope by staying indoors or swimming in the cool ocean. In contrast, the weather forecast in Tofino was listed at 19-20 degrees C! We packed a cooler with picnic supplies, beach mat, hiking and swimming gear, and headed off to Highway B.C. 4 W.

There are so many amazing natural wonders and tourist attractions along this journey, so you need to decide whether to take a leisurely trip and investigate locations, or to push through directly to Pacific Rim National Park and Tofino. The choice is yours!

Thirty-five minutes (44 km) after departing from Nanaimo, you drive past Coombs. It is difficult to miss the line ups of parked cars near the Old Country Market. Look up and you will usually spot the goats eating grass on the roof of the market.

Coombs Goats on the Roof

Coombs is a fun and funky place to spend time sauntering, eating, shopping, and exploring. Coombs Old Country Market is usually open every day from March to December.

If you enjoy hiking and exploring the beautiful natural coastal rainforest, check out Little Qualicum Falls, and the famous Old Growth Douglas Fir Trees and giant Cedars in MacMillan Provincial Park at Cathedral Grove.

Old Growth at Cathedral Grove

The largest trees in this protected park are over 800 years old, 9 metres (29.6 feet) in circumference, and 75 meters (246 feet) tall. Bring your camera….The old growth trees along the trails are impressive and majestic! Here is a link to a practical guide for the Cathedral Grove Trail Area.

https://www.alltrails.com/trail/canada/british-columbia/old-growth-and-living-forest-trail-loop

Once you arrive in Port Alberni make certain you have fuel and food as the next section of the road is twisty and services are limited until you arrive at Ucluelet or Tofino.

23 km from Port Alberni the road curves around the edges of gorgeous Sproat Lake. This 25 km long, deep, fresh water lake is known as Kleecoot by the Indigenous peoples. It is a local favorite location for swimming, fishing, waterskiing, kayaking, windsurfing, picnics, hiking or camping. https://bcparks.ca/explore/parkpgs/sproat_lk/

Wally Creek

Continue about 30 km from Sproat Lake and you will discover another natural treasure at the junction of Wally Creek and Kennedy River.

Check out the natural “Potholes“, climb boulders, or relax on the rocks adjacent to the creek.

Wally Creek/ Kennedy River

This is such a fascinating area to explore and appreciate. Natural erosion at its most intricate, exposes crystal clear turquoise waters and orange, green veins of color within rock layers.

This pristine area needs to be appreciated and preserved. If visiting here, please be respectful of the area and take any trash with you when you depart.

Climbing Boulders and Exploring

While my husband and I took a break from driving and explored this natural wonder, a friendly local also exploring the boulders with his family, questioned whether we were heading to Tofino. He informed us about the daily road closure between 11 am and 3 pm weekdays at Kennedy Hill due to major road construction! As it was after 11:30 am, we had missed the opening and now faced a road closure for another 3 + hours!

Lots of time to appreciate the beauty

We always check DriveBC.ca road status and conditions prior to any travel. But, for some unexplained reason, today we had not checked ahead! Murphy’s Law!

As we had several hours to wait, we delved into our picnic from the car cooler, then explored the boulders and rugged creek area.

Amazing potholes from erosion and orange/green coloured formations

Cars continued to arrive as people joined us exploring Wally Creek, relaxing on the rocks, or swimming in the eroded “Potholes“. We wondered how many of these new arrivals were aware of the Kennedy Hill road closure?

At 2:30 p.m. we departed and drove to Kennedy Hill. We joined the incredibly lengthy line of vehicles waiting in the cue. There were “Black Bear in Area” warning signs posted.

Picking Huckleberries and Thimbleberries while waiting at the Road Block.

Most people remained in their vehicles with windows down. But the heat, boredom, and enticement of huckleberries on the side of the road drew me outside. I started picking wild Huckleberries and some Thimbleberries. Before long, I had taught 3 young men from the car ahead of us about wild berries, and they were also having a berry feast.

The time passed, the road opened, and soon we were meandering through construction zone areas.

Video of Kennedy Hill Construction

It is a 14 km drive from Kennedy Hill to the Tofino-Ucluelet Highway 4 Junction. Before planning a trip to Tofino or Ucluelet check road conditions. Here is a useful link created by Tofino Tourism. https://tourismtofino.com/

Later than planned, at 4pm (and 19 degrees) we were finally enjoying the beautiful main street of Tofino. We observed tourists, decked in matching life jackets, returning rental kayaks and gear; while another group (possibly exiting a whale watching tour) chugging up the hill at Jamie’s Whaling Station.

Tofino Campbell Street— Delicious late lunch at Shelter Restaurant

Directly across Campbell Street, we relaxed with beers and delicious meals at the popular Shelter Restaurant. My husband thoroughly enjoyed his burger and I was very impressed with the delectable gluten free Surf Bowl. This experience was so welcomed and appreciated after the unexpected, lengthy road closure. We will definitely return to Shelter Restaurant.

Finally, we were off to explore Tofino! During a previous trip here we visited with the famous Indigenous Artist, Roy Henry Vickers, at his Big House Gallery. We were lucky enough to catch Roy creating art and even listened to his story telling session. Later that evening while walking on Chesterman Beach we also caught Roy carrying his surf board emerging from the waves. I purchased his print entitled “The two of us” which is reflective of stunning Chesterman Beach.

Roy Henry Vickers Gallery & Downtown Seaside Park area.

We were not successful sighting many kayakers at the downtown seaside park and Tofino Air location this afternoon.

We drove to Tonquin Beach for a little wander through local nature trails leading to one of the many beaches around Tofino.

Tofino Weather/Ocean Warnings

Warning signs remind locals and visitors that waves can appear unexpectedly and the weather/ocean conditions are tumultuous in Tofino. Today was calm and both the trails and ocean were pristine and stunning.

Tonquin Beach trails

Tonquin beach is quite small, but very pretty and appears to be a bit sheltered.

Tonquin Beach, Tofino

By 6:30 pm the sun had disappeared and the fog was rolling into Tofino. The temperature was dropping quite quickly and was now sitting at 16 degrees C. Tofino has many quirky shops and unique features. There were hundreds of shoes (mainly runners) draped over cable lines around a downtown skatepark.

Tofino skateboard park decorations

After a quick tour around town, we decided to drive to Pacific Rim Park and walk along stunning Chesterman Beach. We noticed that Parking lots were emptying as surfers, in full neoprene suits, loaded their surf boards on their vehicles and departed for the day. Two of the favorite cold water surf beaches in this area are Cox Bay and Chesterman Beach.

Map and Rules for Chesterman Beach, Tofino

I found the enthusiasm of the surfers a bit surprising as huge signs lit up messages near the beach trails indicating the water temperature was “Very Cold”. Hmmm? What does this mean?

After researching, I discovered that the ocean water temperature at Tofino does not rise above 20 degrees Celsius. Apparently in winter the average water temperature in Tofino hits about 8 degrees C, while in summer the average temperature is about 13 degrees C. Brrr…. Those are dedicated cold water surfers!

Foggy Chesterman Beach

By 7 p.m. we had arrived at Chesterman Beach. The fog had really rolled in making the trees and landscapes quite mystical and eerie. In addition, the winds had increased and the gusts were getting powerful.

Fog and Gusty Winds at Chesterman

We walked toward Frank Island along the tombolo which is a sandy isthmus connecting Frank Island to Chesterman beaches during low tides.

Frank Island No Trespassing—located between the 2 beaches at Chesterman

We battled the winds as we observed a handful of keen surfers still playing in the frigid waves. Without toques and warm weather clothing, we were unprepared for this. When we departed from Nanaimo this morning it was 28 degrees. When we started the vehicle, it was a balmy 13.5 degrees C in Tofino.

13.5 degrees Celsius. We actually turned on the heat for the first time in months!

Our goals of having an adventure and locating cool temperatures were achieved.

It was time to commence the 3 hour trip home to Nanaimo. Hopefully there would be no construction hold ups during the homeward trip.

On the road again…Homeward bound

What did we learn? Always check the weather forecast and road conditions prior to any trip. Be grateful for new experiences.

Keep safe and have fun my friends. The next blog post will be about the B.C. Ferry trip up the Inside Passage from Port Hardy to Prince Rupert.

Categories
Adventure Canada Englishman River Falls Exploring Vancouver Island Hiking trails Nature Travel

Mystical Englishman River Falls Trail

If you enjoy fresh air, exercise, and experiencing nature through lush Vancouver Island rainforest adjacent to rivers and waterfalls, then Englishman River Falls Park is a mystical place to explore.

Central Vancouver Island–Between Nanaimo and Parksville.

The British Columbia Provincial Park even offers seasonal camping and the trails are utilized for hiking, running, biking, and nature exploration. Check the BC Parks website for updates about any trail closures or campfire bans.

Englishman River Falls Trails

Englishman River is located 35 km northwest of Nanaimo or 13 km southwest of Parksville. It takes about 30 minutes to drive to the park and conservation area from Nanaimo.

It’s a Tranquil hike on a hot day during summer!

The main trail is a 1.3 kilometer loop with a minimal elevation gain of only 52 meters mainly adjacent to the meandering river.

Englishman River Falls Trail during summer

There is a suspension bridge which overlooks a popular swimming area.

Cooling off in the river during summer.

Many additional trails, of varying levels of difficulty, are fun to explore too. The previous photos were taken during the summer month of August.

Englishman River Falls Trail in mid October.

The following photos illustrate the richness in green growth, increased levels of water, and presence of mushrooms and fungi during autumn (October) on the Englishman River Falls trails.

Autumn hiking on Vancouver Island

In addition to hikers, people walking leashed dogs, and trail bike enthusiasts, you may even encounter the odd horse and rider traversing the outer, less used trails.

Gorgeous trails. Hikers practicing physical distancing safety protocols during Covid.

The Vancouver Island rainforest is abundant with vegetation and bird species. Watch for old growth and second growth evergreens interspersed in the forests of the park lands.

Lush Englishman River Falls

Englishman River waterfalls flow with the greatest volume and vigor after rainy seasons. However, this is also the season when trails can experience windfall (trees and branches down) and water erosion on the trails.

Englishman River waterfall mid October 2020

An excellent source of practical information when considering hiking on Vancouver Island is available from AllTrails app. https://www.alltrails.com/trail/canada/british-columbia/englishman-river-falls

I will return to hike along Englishman River Falls trails. However, the next blog posts will highlight some of the other amazing locations to hike or kayak around Vancouver Island.

Keep Safe and Enjoy Life. Cheers.

Categories
Adventure Canada Exploring Outdoors Exploring Vancouver Island Seaside trails Travel

Nature Fun in Sunny Nanaimo!

August 2021

We are so thankful to reside on gorgeous Vancouver Island, Canada. During Covid 19 lockdowns non-essential travel was not permitted to our amazing island paradise. As our province currently has over 82% of all residents aged 12 + with at least 1 dose of covid vaccine and over 60% of all people in B.C. fully vaccinated against Covid 19, restrictions are carefully being lifted and travel has resumed once again.

Pipers Lagoon is fun during the day and gorgeous during sunset time.

This blog post shares a few fun ways to explore nature and relax around the Nanaimo area. Piper’s lagoon area with its long spit and choices of swimming in the lagoon or the Pacific Ocean is always a favorite of ours. Whether you are swimming, relaxing, climbing rocks, checking out the trails, or embracing nature and recreation water activities this location has it all!

Practicing safe kayak rolls while the BC ferries pass in the background!

The Pacific ocean surrounds Vancouver Island and is our highway to connect Vancouver Island with the mainland of western Canada. There are 200 Gulf Islands located in the Strait of Georgia between Vancouver Island and the B.C. mainland. Water vessels are common sights from kayaks and SUPs, to sailboats and pleasure crafts, or ferries and freighters.

There are so many beautiful sights when Kayaking around Vancouver Island

If interested in exploring the nearby Gulf Islands, here is a great website to check out. https://www.hellobc.com/places-to-go/gulf-islands/

During the heat waves and sunny summer days, the refreshing Pacific Ocean is a popular location for swimming, kayaking, and playing in the refreshing salt water.

More photos of beautiful Pipers lagoon

Sometimes curious river otters or harbor seals entertain or pop up nearby in the ocean to visit. When the Herring or Pilcher fish are running you can also see sealions and sometimes a magnificent whale, or a small pod, make appearances.

If you prefer a busier, more urban seaside location then downtown Nanaimo’s Maffeo Sutton park area might be more suited to your taste. There are lovely flat walking areas along the seawall and around the park to the marina area.

Maffeo Sutton park in Nanaimo

Music and Art events occur on a regular basis throughout the summer. The Dragon Boating competitions are held in this location. You can also locate the small walk-on ferry transport vessel which commutes between downtown Nanaimo and Newcastle (Saysutshun) Island and Marine Provincial Park. Another tiny commuter ferry departs from the marina area to the famous floating restaurant Dingy Dock Pub on Protection Island.

Maffeo Sutton Park sculptures and history.

The park embraces the Arts and there are dozens of interesting sculptures and statues reflecting historical figures and events scattered throughout the grounds.

For the sand loving individuals, there are several sandy beaches located just beyond the Nanaimo area. One option is to drive 34 km to Parksville and relax on Rathtrevor beach. Check the tide schedule as low tide requires a lengthy walk to the edge of the ocean!

Rathtrevor Beach in Parksville.

If you prefer to swim and relax on a fresh water lake, there are many options for this too! Long Lake is popular for water sports, swimming, and picnics. Motorized vessels (Sea-Doos, water skiing) must keep to the middle of the lake. Non motorized vessels (kayaks, SUP, big floats stay around the outside of the lake. The Nanaimo Rowing Club has their clubhouse here so it is also common to see rowers practicing. There is a swimming zone by the beach/picnic location.

Relaxing at Long Lake, Nanaimo

For people who prefer more shade and trails through woods or marsh areas, there are extensive opportunities to explore this type of habitat too. One example is the marsh and pond around Oliver Woods park.

Oliver Woods pond and marsh area, Nanaimo

Multiple species of ducks and birdlife can be viewed here as well as amphibians, wild berries, wildflowers, and occasionally a beaver is visible.

Abundant floral displays mainly wild….

My goal was to expose a taste of a few of the beautiful and diverse locations around my home of Nanaimo. In future blog posts I will concentrate on specific hikes or nature explorations in our rainforest or oceans of Vancouver Island.

Meanwhile, I conclude this blog post with another option for relaxation. Let me suggest… reading a wonderful book from a hammock under majestic 120 Foot + evergreen trees.

Cheers! Have a wonderful day!

Stay safe everybody. Cheers from Nanaimo, Canada.